The Problem with Kenya … and my Hope!

In my last trip to Africa, I did have many excellent meetings with small groups of open-minded Kenyan leaders

In my last trip to Africa, I did have many excellent meetings with small groups of open-minded Kenyan leaders

As many of you may know from my website, I am involved with starting a non-profit community cultural center in Mtito Andei, one of the poorest and most neglected medium size cities in Kenya. (Link to project summary) In previous trips to Kenya, a most wonderful country with a rich culture, fantastic wildlife and wonderful people, I have met with youth advocates (youth being defined as under 35 years old) and senior government officials. Many of these leaders are well trained and educated with Masters and Doctorate degrees from top universities in the USA and the UK.

In my discussions with these leaders, they often shared a vision of Kenya as a country seeking to become “the shining star of sub-Sahara Africa” with a growing modern economy. They have the natural resources, the international standing and the educated leaders to move them in that direction. Yet in my opinion, that will not happen unless some severe issues are addressed.

The Kimer-Kamba Cultural Centre in Mtito-Andei is now open and providing workshops for local leaders to address issues of discrimination and diversity.

The Kimer-Kamba Cultural Centre in Mtito-Andei is now open and providing workshops for local leaders to address issues of discrimination and diversity.


Even as I had this blog outlined and on the drawing boards earlier this summer, President Obama in his trip to Kenya in July broached some of these same issues. (see link at bottom.) Will the leaders of Kenya listen with open minds and take the right actions to move Kenya forward, or will they continue to deny the problems, stick their heads in the sand, relegating Kenya to being a second class nation?


The two major issues are corruption / nepotism and discrimination / inequality.

1) Corruption and nepotism. In my travels across Kenya, I saw many examples of leaders trying to secure money for projects to benefit their communities and tribes to the detriment of the rest of the country, or even worse, siphoning off significant funds for personal use. Enlighted national leaders need to rise to the occasion of providing ethical leadership that moves the entire nation of Kenya forward. For example, Kenyan leaders need to address the totally inadequate (and in my opinion disgraceful) Nairobi airport. Dirty, hot, inefficient (one customs agent on a recent trip took over 20 minutes to process each single person) and with no internet connection, the airport is not appropriate for a country trying to become a global modern travel and commerce hub.

2) Discrimination and Inequality. First, many Kenyan leaders relegate an entire half of their population (women) to second class citizenry while the rest of the world understands the great resourcefulness of women and fully empowers them to help lead their national economies. Some ancient traditions like forced marriages and genital mutilation (and see video link below) hold Kenya back as a tribal country instead of a modern nation. And second, many older Kenyans in power continue to demonize their LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) citizens, virtually making them unemployable and unable to contribute to their national economy.

I realize this blog may anger many Kenyans, but I earnestly implore Kenyan leaders to take a deep fresh look at what kind of ethical and open-minded leadership they need to provide to lead Kenya in becoming a 21st century leader on the African continent. My truest hope is that this country will use its vast natural resources and 100% of its talented population to become Africa’s shining star.

LINKS: ONE ARTICLE, ONE BLOG AND ONE VIDEO

Associated Press article on President Obama’s trip to Kenya in July: “Obama: Kenya is at a Crossroads.”

My blog about how demonizing people hurts a country’s economy,“The Macroeconomics of Gay Bullying.”

A recent superb video from Global Roots (a non-profit partner in Kenya) on the female mutilation issue and an innovative troupe of young woman performing to raise awareness.

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